May 28, 2023

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What are the Saturnalia and pagan Roman rites that are said to be the true origin of the Christmas celebration?

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Saturnalia is a Roman holiday aimed at welcoming winter.

The Roman Empire left a legacy to the Western world, among other things, the principles of the legal system in force in dozens of countries, including the roots and logic of languages ​​such as Spanish, French or Italian. The bodies of firefighters working in the cities are functioning.

But perhaps there is an element of that tradition that is not well known: the celebration of Christmas.

One of the main celebrations of Christianity today, marked by glowing trees, Santa Claus, cattle pens and family gatherings, it is hard to see any sign of Roman culture.

Importantly, for more than five centuries, the Roman Empire was a people who believed in many gods.

But Christmas is celebrated in December and there is plenty of opportunity to reunite with family with Roman influence.

Then, Any one Bond and Christmas Why is Rome so indebted?

The answer to that question relates to a specific Roman celebration: the winter-welcoming ceremony in Saturnalia, the Roman Empire.

“The choice of December 25 as the date of Jesus’ birth has nothing to do with the Bible, but it is a conscious and obvious choice to identify Christ’s role as the light of the world in the winter solstice,” McCulloch, a professor of church history at the University of Dear Oxford, told BBC Mundo.

But when did this encounter between Roman rites and Christian celebrations occur, and how did they reach our time?

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During the Saturnalia a kind of character was reversed: men dressed as women and masters as slaves.


Saturnalia is a festival known as the “rebirth” by the ancient Romans, and was enthusiastically celebrated on the Julian calendar (which ruled the empire and Europe for centuries) when the winter solstice ended. On December 25th.

However, the festival began eight days earlier, on December 17, when the usual rules were reversed: men dressed as women and masters as servants, and at other conferences it was reversed.

But this is where we began to see similarities: houses were decorated with greenery, candles were lit, and gifts were given.

“This celebration was held in memory of the god Saturn (hence the name) and is always characterized by the relaxation of the social order and the festive atmosphere,” Australian historian Margaret Johnson told BBC Mundo in an interview.

Johnson emphasizes that the celebration of Saturn’s commemoration had a meaning when winter began: Saturn was the main deity of the Romans.

“He is the god of time, agriculture and the supernatural. The days are numbered and somehow the earth dies as a symbol, so the god of time and food must be happy,” says the educator.

And as part of that tradition, gifts were introduced with gratitude to the afterlife and others.

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Historians note that Jesus was born in March and April.

But as the historian notes, in addition to the festival of Saturnalia, the Romans had another celebration: the “birth of the undefeated or conquered sun” (Natalis Solis Invicti), which was celebrated every December 25, according to various documents. Roman period.

“In the fourth-century calendar, Philocles’ calendar mentions the celebration of Invictus on December 25, which probably refers to the ‘undefeated sun’,” says Johnson.

“In that document it is first mentioned that December 25 was the birth of Jesus,” says the historian.


The truth is, by the end of the Roman era, Christmas was already part of the Roman calendar.

Historians point out that this was a gradual process. It is associated with a mixture or integration of traditions.

By the middle of the first century, Christians had already come to Rome and began to shape the society of the empire.

“As Christianity became so entrenched in the Roman world and the ancient polytheism fell behind, Christians adopted these established rites and made them their own,” Johnson notes.

“It is very believable that they have chosen this holiday because of their relationship with rebirth. But this time With The resurrection of Christ, at the same time, entrusted them with the task of rescuing them and leading them to eternal life. ”

Everything was already written in the fourth century: Between 320 and 353, Pope Julius I set up a Christmas celebration on December 25, perhaps as a ploy to convert the Romans.

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Pope Leo I confirmed the date of commemoration of the birth of Christ on December 25 in the fifth century.

Then it is assumed that Jesus was born in December. However, the Italian historian Polidoro Virgilio In the 15th century, he began to notice similarities between various pagan rites and the celebration of Christmas.

“Politoro Virgilio pointed out the connection between the English tradition and the main. ‘Lord of the Rule’, An equivalent custom that occurred on Christmas Day and occurred during the Saturnalia. Both masters and servants or slaves changed roles one day, ”Johnson notes.

Since then, some historians have been searching for the exact date of Jesus’ birth in mid-March or early April.

But the truth is, the influence is so strong that we constantly celebrate with gifts, Parties and family gatherings every December 25.

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